17 June 2010
Idiot of the Week Nominee: Rep. Joe Barton
Anyone wanting the Idiot honor this week has to work hard to top America's newest folk hero, Gary Brooks Faulkner, but for tone-deaf ideologically pigheaded cluelessness, as judged by his own peers, the title may well go to the Congressman who has received the most donations from the oil and gas industries. Barton has had a rough day since his aggressive display of servility this morning, when he apologized in a committee room to a British Petroleum executive for the White House having allegedly subjected the beleaguered corporation to a "shakedown" resulting in the formation of a $20 billion escrow fund. Within hours, fellow Republicans were demanding that the Texan be stripped of his committee seniority for the damage they believed he had done to the entire party's prospects this fall. Barton's righteous indignation over what he takes to be an unconstitutional imposition upon BP either blinded him or made him arrogantly indifferent to the fact that, before the American people, he was apologizing to the corporation most Americans hold responsible for the Gulf oil spill. He has since clarified that he doesn't deny BP's responsibility himself, but only objected to the manner with which the President enforced that responsibility. As the report linked shows, Barton is not alone in this thought on the right wing of the Republican Party, but his more practical comrades realized almost instantly how bad his apology can be made to look. Some rightists might well want to say, "the public be damned!" on this point, but some Republicans still understand that public opinion still matters, whether it conforms with free-market orthodoxy or not. The damage has been done, and Democrats are sure not to let anyone forget it. People may be dissatisfied with the President's handling of the oil spill, but they're likely to be even less satisfied with a party portrayed as not giving a damn about it, or caring more about a corporation's rights than the public interest.